Your Guide to the Best Portable Internet Options

These portable internet solutions keep you connected away from home.
Best for weekend campers, boaters, and RVers
Best for full-time RVers
Nomad Internet
Nomad Internet 4G LTE
  • Icon Pros  Light
    $129.00/mo.
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    Unlimited data
Best for extreme environments
Huges Terminal
HUGHES 9450-C10 Mobile Satellite Terminal
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Equipment $5,795.00 and up
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Mobile Wi-Fi internet and phone

Kristin Cooke
Researcher & Writer
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Published on May 28, 2021

Are you packing for a cross-country trip in your RV? Or embracing the tidal pull and heading out to sea? No matter how you travel, you don’t have to give up every connection to the outside world just to relax—internet included.

But not all portable internet options are made equal. So which one should you pack for the next time you hit the road?

The best ways to get portable internet

VerizonNomad InternetATTHughes LogoSkyroamIridium
ProductVerizon Get More Unlimited Cell Phone Plan + Mobile HotspotNomad InternetNETGEAR hotspot + AT&T 100 GB Prepaid PlanHUGHES 9450-C10 Mobile Satellite TerminalSkyroam SolisIridium 9555 Satellite Phone
Best forWeekend campers, boaters, and RVersFull-time RVers and remote workersCross-country travelExtreme environmentsInternational travelersBackcountry
Price$90.00/mo.$129.00/mo.$55.00/mo.$63.00–$5,639.00/mo.$9.00/day or $99.00/mo.$49.00/mo. and up
Get it

Do you own a cell phone? You’re one step ahead when it comes to surfing the web on the road. Depending on your plan, you can turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot through a process called “tethering.” When you turn on the tethering (or personal hotspot) feature on your phone, you can use your phone like a modem to connect other devices to the internet.

Tethering doesn’t deliver enough data for full-time use, so don’t rely on tethering if you want to work remotely in an RV for the summer. But tethering will work well for vacationers or weekend warriors. Using your phone as a mobile hotspot (tethering) can give you enough data to stream Netflix, download books on your tablet, and check email while you’re on the road or camped out.

Every mobile phone provider has different rules and limits for tethering, but most allow a limited amount of tethered data each month (even if you have an unlimited plan). You can connect laptops, gaming devices, and tablets to the internet using either your phone or a standalone mobile hotspot device.

For RV and boat travel in the US, we highly recommend Verizon’s Get More Unlimited plan combined with a mobile hotspot device. This gets you 30 GB of 5G or 4G LTE data—and then unlimited data after 30 GB at 600 Kbps.

But the main reason we recommend Verizon is it has the best nationwide coverage according to two different third-party tests, OpenSignal and RootMetrics. That means you’ll get better coverage all across the country, whether you’re enjoying beaches in Florida or you’re visiting family in Texas. There are still areas without any cell phone service, often within heavily forested or mountainous areas. But getting data through mobile plans is faster and more reliable than most other types of data.

Prefer to travel in international waters? You can still use your cellphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Here’s how:

  • Make sure your cell phone is unlocked.
  • Most cell phones should work internationally on the GSM network—both AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. So, an unlocked phone from either one should be compatible while you travel.
  • Once you arrive in your destination country, buy a prepaid SIM card with data and pop it in.
More about tethering
Bullhorn

You can learn more about tethering in our guide: Should You Use Your Phone for Home Internet.

Best for weekend campers, boaters, and RVers

Verizon Ellipsis Jetpack MHS900L
Verizon Get More Unlimited Cell Phone Plan + Mobile Hotspot

• Price: $90/mo. (data plan) + device purchase
• Hotspot data: 30 GB of 4G data, then unlimited 600 Kbps, and unlimited 5G data
• Download: 20 Mbps
• Upload: 3 Mbps

Verizon has the best cellular network in terms of the percentage of the country with coverage, so if you wander far and wide, Verizon is the best bet for cellular service. So if you can pair a Verizon data plan with a Verizon hotspot, you’ll have a strong connection in most (but not all) parts of the country. 

The Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L is a good, all-purpose mobile hotspot device to pair with Verizon service. It’s priced at $199.99 through Verizon, or you can buy it on an installment plan.

Verizon data doesn’t come cheap, though. It’s the most expensive data among all of the carriers—which may be justified somewhat by their expansive coverage area but not necessarily by their 5G service. Verizon isn’t the leader in 5G—T-Mobile has more 5G coverage across the US.

If you’re looking for a cheaper way to get Verizon data for a mobile hotspot device while you roam across the country, we recommend checking out Visible. It’s owned by Verizon and offers much lower prices (although the data speeds may get slowed down if you’re in a congested area).

Best for full-time RVers and remote workers

Nomad Internet
Nomad Internet 4G LTE

• Price: $129/mo. (data plan) + device purchase
• Hotspot data: Unlimited
• Download: 4G LTE speeds
• Upload: 4G LTE speeds

Nomad Internet is a portable wireless internet option with unlimited data. Data is delivered over a cellular network. Nomad Internet offers several internet plans with different providers, but the one that comes with a portable travel router (which looks like a hotspot) runs on the T-Mobile network.  

Although you can’t get Nomad Internet signal in extremely remote locations, it will work well anywhere within the T-Mobile coverage area. It delivers truly unlimited data, so it’s a great solution for video streaming, working remotely, online schooling, or Zoom calls all around town. You can connect up to multiple devices to the travel router. And, Nomad doesn’t require a contract. There’s a $149 sign up fee, which includes your first month’s membership. After that, it’s $129 per month.

You can learn more about Nomad Internet on our Unlimited Wireless Internet Options guide.

Best for cross-country travel

Netgear Hotspot
NETGEAR hotspot + AT&T 100 GB Prepaid Plan

• Price: $55/mo. (data plan) + device purchase
• Hotspot data: Unlimited
• Download: 4G LTE speeds
• Upload: 4G LTE speeds

Until this spring, we didn’t recommend AT&T hotspot data plans very often because they were expensive. But with the launch of AT&T’s 100 GB plan for just $55 per month, AT&T suddenly landed on our good list. It’s hard to find a direct-from-carrier mobile hotspot plan that beats this plan, and we admit we’re a little excited about it.

AT&T’s best hotspot device to pair with the plan is going to be the Nighthawk M1 4G LTE Mobile Router. It sells for $269.99 on Amazon, and you can sometimes find refurbished ones for a little less. AT&T has launched a 5G mobile hotspot—the Nighthawk M5 5G WiFi 6 Mobile Router for $699.99—but unless you stick to urban areas where there’s 5G service, you may not get much use out of it. You can learn more on our Best Mobile Hotspots guide.

Best for extreme and rugged environments

Huges Terminal
Hughes 9450-C10 BGAN Mobile Satellite Terminal

• Price: $$$$
• Supports: Internet, phone, fax, SMS text
• Download: 464 Kbps
• Upload: 448 Kbps
• 802.11b Wi-Fi access point
• In-motion antenna

If you’re a serious traveler who’s on the road 365 days a year in extremely remote and rugged areas, investing in a satellite terminal like the Hughes 9450-C10 is worth it.

The 9450-C10 delivers a decked-out mobile office while you’re on the road. It’s not only a Wi-Fi hotspot, but it’s also a connection to phone, fax, and SMS text service. Bonus: It comes with an onboard router that delivers download speeds up to 464 Kbps through Wi-Fi or a wired connection.

Sure, 464 Kbps pales in comparison to the gig speeds you could get from cable and fiber internet if you rented an apartment in the city. Streaming videos or gaming is probably out of the question, but these speeds should be fine for checking email, messaging family on Facebook, and googling stuff in your RV.

This terminal works by connecting you to the Broad Global Area Network (BGAN) network, which is made up of four satellites owned by Inmarsat. Instead of paying for your internet service online or getting a paper bill like you would with cable or DSL, you’ll need a BGAN SIM card to connect. You can find these SIM cards online, and the cost depends on how many megabytes of data you need.

BGAN cards for mobile satellite internet

Card
Data units
Valid for
Learn more
BlueCosmo500180 days

You might think these features will make setup a beastly task, but all you need to do is turn the 9450-C10 on to create your Wi-Fi hotspot. Voilà! Now that’s something even we can handle after a long, tiresome day of traveling.

We also like that the 9450-C10 is an in-motion satellite antenna. That means it automatically finds and tracks satellite signals so you can enjoy an internet connection even while you’re on the move. (Just don’t web surf and drive!)

Do you call the countryside home when you’re not traveling? Stay connected with satellite internet for your house.

Enter your address to learn more.

Best portable internet for international travel

Skyroam hotspot
Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot

• Price: $
• Download: 20 Mbps (varies by country)
• Upload: 3 Mbps (varies by country)
Countries: 130+
• How to get it: Purchase or rental

Have you ever paid exorbitant international rates for a phone call or email while traveling? The Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot makes traveling easy. It’s a portable hotspot you can take with you almost anywhere and access international data. 

You can rent the Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot for $9 per day (USD), which includes unlimited data. It works seamlessly in over 130 countries.

You can pay by the day, by the month, or by the GB. Skyroam offers rental of the hotspot with data for $9 per day, with convenient delivery and drop off by mail. If you’ll be traveling a lot, you can buy a Skyroam Solis hotspot for $179.99 and get a data plan separately. 

Skyroam Solis X WiFi Smartspot data and rental plans

PlanSkyroam Global Day Pass Skyroam Global Unlimited Subscription Skyroam Data by the Gig
Price

$9 per day

$99 per month $9 per GB
DataUnlimited

20 GB

1GB
Get it
Don’t want to hassle with SIM cards?
Bullhorn

Google Fi may be a better option since it auto-detects the best wireless network available near you. Or you can grab a mobile hotspot device like this one from GlocalMe on Amazon, which automatically swaps to international networks it has agreements with—no SIM card required.

You can also buy a burner phone once you arrive at your destination or on Amazon if that seems easier. Or swap to an international phone plan from your US-based wireless provider. As far as plans go, we think T-Mobile ONE and ONE Plus offer the best perks for globetrotters.

Of course, those dreaded dead spots are always a possibility. To keep your signal from waving goodbye, get a signal booster. Signal boosters extend your coverage by boosting your existing cellphone signal, which means you’ll get a better hotspot.

Learn how to turn your cell phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot with our guide.

Best satellite phone for the backcountry

Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone

• Price: $
• Supports: Phone, short emails, SMS tex
Download: Up to 9.6 Kbps
Battery: Up to 3 hrs. talk time, up to 30 hrs. standby time

A satellite phone is your best bet if you’re working in rugged terrain where other signals (like mobile phone) are unavailable. Tuck one next to your bedroll, and you can maintain connections to the outside world without weighing down your pack.

Of course, with download speeds that max out at 9.6 Kbps, you won’t be doing much web surfing on your sat phone.

But that’s ok, and you won’t be (too) disappointed if you expect to only make quick calls and send texts or short emails. And the SOS functionality adds peace of mind when the nearest town is hundreds of miles away. After all, a sat phone is meant to let others know you’re safe and sound while you venture off the beaten path, not update your status on Instagram.

Speaking of “off the beaten path,” Iridium’s sat phones work even in the North or South Pole—but more likely you’ll want something with a reliable connection between the north and south 70th parallels. Yup, the Iridium sat phone still works there too.

Though not as rugged as the Iridium 9575, the 9555 is still resilient enough to summit the Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala and still text your mom to let her know you made it.

FAQ

Can I use satellite internet in any country?

You can’t use satellite internet anywhere in the world yet—but companies like Starlink and Project Kuiper will be launching international coverage within the next few years. Check out the latest information on these providers on our Starlink page.

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Kristin Cooke
Written by
Kristin Cooke
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Utah, Kristin learned to geek speak while working as a technical recruiter, interviewing software developers and tech companies. For over 20 years, she has created award-winning content for technology, health, and finance companies. Kristin is an advocate for affordable internet for all and writes about rural internet solutions, satellite internet news, and tech products at SatelliteInternet.com. Her work has been featured in New York Post, PCMag, Forbes, Business Insider, Telecompetitor, Space.com, and The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society.